George W. Bush is on another ballot, only this time he's going against Billy Martin, Don Zimmer and Walter O'Malley instead of Al Gore and John Kerry. Insert your own punch line.
Just as he was four years ago, the president is back on the list of owner, executive, manager and umpire candidates submitted to the Baseball Writers Association of America's 60-person screening committee. I'm honored to be on that committee, which selects the 25 former players and the 15 former owners, managers, umpires and executives who will be placed before the Hall of Fame voting members in 2007. And I'm still trying to figure out why turning an original $600,000, 1.8 percent ownership stake into a $14 million personal profit by getting taxpayers to build you a new stadium is a qualification for Hall of Fame consideration. I mean, hell, David Letterman once owned a small percent of the Mariners. Maybe we should consider him as well. He may have been part of the group responsible for the Moose, but at least Letterman never traded Sammy Sosa for Mujibur and Sirajul.Bush didn't receive enough of our votes to reach on the final ballot four years ago and he probably won't this time either (votes were to be mailed by Sept. 15). But the point is, he should not be under consideration at all. Whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, we should all agree that the Hall of Fame should be about baseball and not about politics. It's bad enough the way politics enter the way we vote for senators and presidents. Let's keep it out of voting for the really important positions like the Hall of Fame and the All-Star Game. Of course, part of the problem is that the nomination committee -- a good group of very knowledgeable and very dedicated baseball writers -- had to come up with 60 executives, managers, et al. This was a bit like being told to nominate three American League MVP candidates from the Kansas City Royals. There just aren't enough deserving candidates out there to come up with 60 guys, but the committee still had to do it. I had a tough enough time picking 15 from their list -- I can't imagine what it would have been like picking 60. Hell, Zimmer is in this group. And consider what the Hall's guide says about nominee Birdie Tebbetts: "Guided the 1956 Reds to a third-place finish and the 1965 Indians to a respectable total of 87 wins " Geez, there's hope for Jim Riggleman yet. The real issue, however, is the Hall of Fame shouldn't be considering owners anyway. Why? Almost every player who reaches the Hall of Fame is well-liked if not beloved by fans, but that's not the case for owners, who often are as hated as they are loved. The way most of the old owners treated the players and the new ones treat the fans, we don't want them honored with a plaque in Cooperstown, we want them tarred and feathered and forced to understudy for the San Diego Chicken. It was a nice touch retiring Jackie Robinson's number, but if baseball really wanted to pay tribute to the man who broke the color barrier, there's a more fitting way. It would ban the very owners who helped maintain that barrier from being given the game's greatest honor. Unfortunately, several of those owners are already in the Hall of Fame but I don't see why we should add any others. If there isn't room for Buck O'Neill in the Hall of Fame yet, there isn't room for the guys who kept him out of the majors. Nor should we consider owners who moved teams away from loyal fans or fleeced taxpayers in sweetheart stadium deals. Of course, I might be willing to reconsider this stance if there was truth in advertising to their potential Hall of Fame plaques: WALTER O'MALLEY
"That @#& SOB''
Dodgers owner, 1950-79. Set ML record for hearts broken when he callously stole beloved franchise from Brooklyn. Brought grief to millions of loyal fans by moving team to Los Angeles in exchange for land in Chavez Ravine that was to have gone to public housing. CHARLIE FINLEY
"The Old Cheapskate''
Athletics owner, 1960-81. Took team from Kansas City, where it averaged 12,000 fans per game the year before purchase and moved it to Oakland, where it was averaging 3,800 per game by 1979. Tried to fire second baseman Mike Andrews for making two errors in World Series game. Commissioner had to keep him from selling his best players to the Red Sox and Yankees. Occasionally paraded a mule around field, hired teenage M.C. Hammer as team's executive vice president and advocated orange baseballs.
Owner, Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins, 1955-84. Infamous tightwad who feared free agency and paid players as little as possible. Moved Senators to Minnesota in 1961, later explaining he did so because, "Black people don't go to ball games you've got good, hard-working white people here.''
Baseball is such a wonderful game, Vin Scully told listeners Monday night, because you never know what you're going to see. He said this, of course, after seeing something no one had ever seen before: A team slamming four consecutive home runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the game. In the most stunning comeback in memory that did not include Robert Redford and Glenn Close, the Dodgers rallied from a 9-5 deficit by hitting back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs against the Padres. First, Jeff Kent hit a home run off Jon Adkins. Four pitches later, J.D. Drew hit one. Then closer Trevor Hoffman, two saves away from the career record, took over. And Russell Martin hit the first pitch for another home run. And then Marlon Anderson homered on the very next pitch to tie the game. Four home runs on seven pitches. Three home runs on three pitches. And just when you thought it couldn't get any wilder than that, Nomar Garciaparra homered to win it in the bottom of the 10th, 11-10. Adkins and Hoffman's combined line: 1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 4 HR And while the top of the NL West was getting very interesting, the Dodgers' archrival was sinking further out of the race. The Giants, who just a few days earlier were in the thick of the playoff hunt, gave up 20 runs while the Dodgers were pulling off their miracle rally. They lost to Colorado 20-8, which sounds bad. On the other hand, all they needed was back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs and they would have tied it up. And then they just would have needed another home run to win it. WIN BEN SHEETS' MONEY
This week's category, courtesy of good friend Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald: Two Degrees of Teddy Ballgame. Q: If Ted Williams were still alive, he could walk up to an active player and say, "I got two hits off that guy one game. How did you do when you faced him?'' To which active player would he be talking and to which pitcher would he be referring? A: The active player, naturally, is Julio Franco. And the pitcher would be Jim Kaat. Williams batted against Kaat the final day of the 1959 season and had two hits against him. Kaat walked Franco in 1982 when Julio was a rookie. In other words, there still is an active player who faced a guy who faced Ted. Is that a great bit of trivia or what? By the way, best wishes for Kitty in his retirement. He's a good guy and one of the best broadcast analysts we've ever heard. And with his 283 wins, three 20-win seasons and 16 gold gloves, he deserves to be on that ballot going to the veterans committee voters. HATE MAIL
As expected, there was a lot of response to Page 2's "Hometown Bums campaign last week. Several readers took us to task for not including several of their least favorite bums (Armando Benitez for the Mets and Pat Burrell for the Phillies were the most frequently mentioned), to which I can only reply: You're right. It's just that there was soooo much competition. People also sounded off on last week's Off-Base column about mandatory Costume Races for every team (a la the sausages in Milwaukee). Fans love costume races but a couple readers complained that I took the lazy way out with the Reds by making a cheap Pete Rose gambling reference. Again, I plead guilty and offer this race suggestion from Mike Schwartz: "For Cincinnati, how about 'Red Races' and have famous communists race? I could imagine something like the old Monty Python sketch and having strangely out of place old Russians trying to run, and then Stalin has them all sent to the gulag before the race starts.'' Yes! I love the idea. But not just Russians -- open it to "Reds'' everywhere! Lenin, Karl Marx, Trotsky, Eugene Debs, Che Guevara, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Red Buttons, the Morgan Freeman character in "The Shawshank Redemption" I'm also happy to say that several San Diego readers point out that the Padres already have Friar Races, which is very good news. Unfortunately, they do not hold the races every game. I've been to several games at the new park without ever seeing them. This is a shame. You go all the way to San Diego, pay the outrageous parking fees outside the stadium, lay out a small fortune on tickets and buy a couple fish tacos and you aren't guaranteed seeing the friars race? That's just not right. C'mon, Padres! Race those friars nightly. From the looks of it, they can stand to run a few more laps. INFIELD CHATTER
"Over the weekend Pete Rose signed 30 baseballs at a sports show in L.A. He signed each ball saying, 'Sorry I bet on baseball.' O.J. signed knives that said, 'Sorry I killed my wife.'"
-- David Letterman P.S. Welcome back, Peter.